SALEM — The five-year, much-publicized legal battle over a wedding cake that never got baked is continuing here in Oregon.
Aaron and Melissa Klein of Sandy, the Christian couple who formerly owned and operated Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, are asking the Oregon Supreme Court to overturn a state Court of Appeals ruling against them.
As reported by The Oregonian, that December 2017 ruling upheld a penalty against the business for declining in 2013 to bake a custom wedding cake for a lesbian couple, Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer.
The appeals court unanimously upheld an award of $135,000 to the women that had been ordered by an administrative law judge of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. That agency found that the Kleins had violated the state anti-discrimination law by by denying service to the same-sex couple.
The Kleins are represented by First Liberty Institute, a national law firm specializing in religious freedom issues, and C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush. The Kleins’ lawyers ask the state’s highest court to review the case to determine whether Oregon business owners can exercise their freedoms of speech, religion and conscience, and whether due process can protect them against bias and judgment from “ideologically motivated adjudicators.”
The Kleins experienced major financial losses from the nationally publicized controversy and also were targeted with hate mail, harassment and threats, and eventually were forced to close their storefront location and later the business, which had moved to their home.
The Bowman-Cryers said they suffered deep emotional pain over the business’s denial of service as well as the huge publicity over the case. Attorney Paul Thompson, who represents the women, declined to comment to The Oregonian on the appeal.
Attorney Nancy Marcus of the national law firm Lambda Legal, which wrote a brief in support of the women before the appeals court, told The Oregonian that the Kleins are using religious freedom claims to exempt themselves from civil rights and discrimination laws.
Mike Berry, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, told Christian News Northwest in January that a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar case involving the Christian-owned Masterpiece Bake Shop in Colorado might affect the Oregon case. He said that hinges on how broad a ruling the federal High Court issues.